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Through illness, some laughs and creativity

Photo provided Anna Fratzke, Ryan Fratzke and Roselene Dahlvang get into character and their costumes to rehearse their performance of "Monster Mash" for the "With Our Own Hearts" talent show at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 at Centennial Auditorium in Staples.

Area people with diagnosed mental illnesses will share their talents, stories, struggles and humor in the upcoming "With Our Own Hearts" talent show and arts and craft exhibit at Centennial Auditorium in Staples.

The show is an opportunity for presenters to entertain and educate, said Jode Freyholtz, a coordinator with the Consumer Survivor Network who is on the planning committee for the event. It's also a fundraiser for the CSN.

"We want to let our community know that we can have fun," said Freyholtz, who was diagnosed with severe depression four years ago.

Marya Hornbacher, who wrote "Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia" and "Madness: A Bipolar Life," will emcee the event.

Performances include music, singing, story telling, poetry and stand-up comedy.

One of her good friends who has been hospitalized and suffered from hallucinations is doing a comedy routine, Freyholtz said. When you're really sick, it's not funny. But now he's well enough to find humor in some of what he went through, she said.

For example, a lot of people who hallucinate about themselves think they are Jesus Christ, she said. Her friend was in the hospital and didn't talk for about two weeks because he believed he was Jesus.

"Jesus only said profound things and he had nothing profound to say," Freyholtz said with a laugh. "And that's funny."

A lot of creative people have suffered from mental illness, she said. In addition to the talent show there were will be an art sale and exhibit, which features everything from flower arrangements to paintings. The participants are really excited about it, Freyholtz said. There are a lot of people in the six participating counties, Wadena, Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison and Todd, with creative gifts.

The Wadena County Mental Health Advisory Committee is also involved and the National Alliance on Mental Illness for north central Minnesota thinks it's a great idea as well, she said.

Organizers were inspired by NAMI's In Our Own Voices: Living with Mental Illness program, where people share their stories, to name the program "With Our Own Hearts."

"Not everybody who's going to do something will be using their voice," she said. "But they will be speaking from their hearts."

There is a lot of stigma attached to mental illness in rural Minnesota, Freyholtz said.

"There's so much fear surrounding this," she said. "One thing we want to let people know is we're just human beings -- that's all."

There is a lot more knowledge than there used to be, but there are still some misunderstandings about mental illness, Freyholtz said. Brain disorders are a scary thing to people.

Movies with killers who are "psycho" help create fear, she said. The reality is people with mental illness are more often victims than they are perpetrators.

Some people are even afraid to disclose that they have a mental illness because they are scared of what family and friends will think, she said. People need to find a trustworthy person they can confide in.

"One of the things we want to let people know is it's OK to talk about this," Freyholtz said.

"With Our Own Hearts" will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, at Centennial Auditorium in Staples. Tickets are available for a small fee at the door.